When Irma was a child

In 1993, John F. Burns, my favorite journalist ever, wrote an article in the New York Times: British Fly to Bosnian Girl’s Rescue. Here’s a snip:

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Aug. 9— After worldwide publicity about her plight, a 5-year-old girl severely wounded by a Serbian artillery shell was evacuated today from Sarajevo by a British military aircraft and flown to Britain, where she was hospitalized in critical condition.

The evacuation was made possible by Prime Minister John Major, who dispatched an executive jet equipped as a hospital plane to Ancona, on the Adriatic coast of Italy. The wounded child, Irma Hadzimuratovic, was flown to Ancona aboard a British military aircraft that shuttles relief supplies to the Bosnian capital.

The article affected me greatly. I wrote this poem that day:

Injured Child Flown to London

Sound of helicopter.

Fleeting adoration rained on her.
Like Jesus, palms were laid under the hoofs of her
donkey and daymares of a simulated crucifixion
froze her gaze to one spot
just below the horizon. She was here to be
buried, not kissed.

But the kissing continued. Like bees
people swept in and out of her face.

This girl and the atom bomb tell us one thing:
That for sure every person now dead has
built up a visible shadow taken from the sun
after years and days of
eating the sun while they stood in a field hovering over a
noontime meal or pausing over an axe near the woods and we
see this shadow
through the naked sockets of memory
placed into the hypothalamus of every
5 year old kid on Earth.

This is what the pygmies told us when they
bowed down to a crypt holding their maternal
grandfather’s elbow bone. This is what Serbia told us when
they swept down on a million straw men.

This is what Irma, tattered child of Bosnia tells us,
flying in grave condition to a London hospital.
Now it has a name and it’s Irma and she is
free of sin and we will kiss her but maybe
like a hurricane she will go away someday
if we close our eyes and put our hands over our head

August 9, 1993

© 1995 Daniel X. O’Neil

God bless us all.

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